Half-century milestone for Westside’s Lighthouse Temple
The Lighthouse Temple, 111 N. 32nd St., will celebrate its 50-year anniversary with a three-day “jubilee celebration” Oct. 2-4.
It will also be the 50-year milestone for R.G. and Vernice Dunbar, who initially started the church in a 2,000-person-capacity air structure east of downtown after arriving in Colorado Springs in 1959. “As far as I know, we're the longest-term pastors in the city,” Vernice said. “My husband has had 66 years of ministry.”
The couple, ages 83 and 80, respectively, are still active with the church, although their son Robert delivers most of the sermons nowadays. He is one of five Dunbar children, all of whom attended Westside schools and who still live in town and still help with the Lighthouse Temple.
Robert's wife Carol, also a pastor, plays the organ on the occasions when Vernice can't be there.
The jubilee, open to anyone, will feature “three days of rejoicing with music, ministry and fun,” according to a church flyer. Service times will be Friday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
R.G. and Vernice met in Milwaukee, Wisc., in 1947. He had just finished at a Bible school in Wyoming, during which time he had helped a pastor start a serviceman's center in Colorado Springs. “R.G. had always felt he would come back here,” Vernice recalled. “It was a nice place.”
A dozen years passed before that happened. The two traveled the country as evangelist ministers, and Vernice had her first three children (Susan, 1950; April, '54; and Robert, '55). The air structure, which was made for them in 1957 in Calumet, Ill., was 30 feet tall and needed two tractor-trailers to move it. People entered through an airlock.
Arriving in Colorado Springs in June 1959, they set up the structure in a field near present-day St. Francis Hospital. They didn't know anyone at the outset, but when they had about 200 regular attendees by the fall of '59, they decided they should stay. After looking around, the Dunbars bought a former Lutheran church building at Weber Street and Platte Avenue. That was the location for the Lighthouse Temple until the opportunity came to purchase six-plus acres on 32nd Street in 1968.
During the Weber-Platte span, the last two of the five Dunbar children were born - Tammy, in 1960; and Vernice (Verny) in '65.
The 32nd Street property includes the summit of what's known as Sugarloaf Mountain, where the Lighthouse Temple erected a large cross that's visible to the surrounding area. “Our city bravely allowed the right to plant the great lit cross on the point of the peak, shining in the night, and holding out its arms in day,” reads a church document. “We know that many have looked to the cross, in their time of trouble, for comfort.”
In the years that followed, accommodating a growing number of attendees - the Lighthouse Temple does not have official “members” - the original 32nd Street church building has seen nine building projects and renovations. In the process, the church capacity has increased from the original 300 to 680, Vernice said.
The Lighthouse Temple teams with the Christ for the Nations Crusades, a religious corporation with an international mission. Vernice describes the temple as “full gospel, pentecostal, in which people speak in tongues and pray for the sick in the tradition of Oral Roberts.”
Asked for the secret of how the ministry has lasted 50 years, Vernice described a format which prescribes few rules for church attendees but which delivers a consistent message: “No book but the Bible, no law but love, and no creed but Christ.”
For more information, call 473-4653.
Westside Pioneer article